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The Role of a School Governor
School governing bodies
All state primary, secondary and special schools are accountable to their governing bodies, which in turn are accountable to parents and the community. As an Academy, Plymstock School has to have at least two elected parent governors, and two elected staff governors in addition to the Head Teacher. The remainder of the governors are a mix of co-opted, staff, academy and parent governors appointed to the Governing Body because they have certain skills, or have community links to the school.
The value of school governance
Governing bodies make decisions which are in the best interests of the children and young people. Keeping the decision-making as close as possible to those affected by the decisions makes for sound and efficient leadership and governance. Governors are unpaid volunteers who undertake the role because they wish to support the school and local community. Fulfilling the role of a school governor is, therefore, both a serious undertaking and enormously rewarding. Not only do governors bring their own knowledge and skills to the role, but, in learning how schools are run, they often develop their understanding of leadership. The majority of employers appreciate this and are supportive of their staff taking on the responsibility. In addition, contributing to the growth and development of a school and seeing tangible improvements in the attainment and wellbeing of the children is a satisfying and important contribution to the local community.
The role of the governing body
The governing body is responsible for the conduct of its school, and must promote high standards of educational achievement at the school. It is the school’s accountable body and as such:
Provides a strategic view of the school by establishing a vision and setting the purpose and aims of the school within an agreed policy framework. It appoints and performance manages the Head Teacher, agreeing the school improvement strategy which includes setting statutory targets with supporting budgets and staffing structures;
monitors and evaluates the work of the school by reviewing the performance of the Head Teacher, the effectiveness of the policy framework, progress towards targets, and the effectiveness of the school improvement strategy;
Signs off the self-evaluation process and responds to school improvement service and Ofsted reports as necessary. In addition it holds the Head Teacher to account for the performance of the school and ensures that parents are involved, consulted and informed as appropriate, with information to the community being made available as required.
In order to do this, governors need to gain knowledge of how their school operates through training, by attending meetings, and by getting to know their school community, for example through a small number of visits to the school during the school day.
Governors need to work together as a team, under the leadership of the Chair of the governing body. Plymstock Governing Body requires its governors to sign a code of practice.
Plymstock School governing body meets formally a minimum of six times a year. Meeting dates are usually set well in advance and meetings generally last around two hours.
Governors are expected to be well prepared for these meetings and attendance is expected, with apologies only for good reasons. In addition, representatives from the governing body attend Trust Board committee meetings for Audit, Education Standards, Estates, HR and Finance each term. These Committees report back to the Full Governing Body every term.
Governors at Plymstock School often meet outside of the formal schedule. Governors will form sub-committees for specific reasons such as the Head teacher’s Performance Management, pay reviews or disciplinary procedures. Governors are asked frequently to sit on panels, for example to decide on issues of employment or pupil discipline, and a governor is usually on any interview panel for prospective employees. Governors will also attend a full training day every year. Each governor will have a link to a specific subject area, for example there is a Child Protection Governor; other governors are linked to curriculum areas like Maths or English. Governors are encouraged to visit the school as often as possible. Governors serve four year terms of office but many governors choose to sign on for term after term, our longest serving member has now been with us for over 25 years, she started as a parent governor and wanted to keep working for the benefit of the school long after her children left.
Skills and training
Governors do not need specific skills, but many of the tasks they are required to undertake can benefit from general business knowledge such as understanding management systems, budget planning and HR functions.
As an Academy we are required to ensure that training for governors is available and we buy into a number of training packages from a variety of providers to ensure that governors are properly inducted to their role and trained for specific tasks such as appointing the Head Teacher and then carrying out the Head Teacher’s performance review.
Support for governors
Each governing body must have a clerk who both advises and services the governing body. We are also supported by Babcock LDP, training provider for the Westcountry Schools Trust who provide advice, support and training. Organisations such as the National Association of Governors will also provide advice and support.